The Toy Industry Association will once again be a sponsor for the Sandbox Summit conference, April 15 and 16, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Organizers from the school’s Education Arcade and the comparative media studies department have crafted a two-day agenda that will explore how technology can nurture kids’ creativity. Presenters for “Pixel the Possibilities: Nurturing Kids’ Imagination in the Digital Age” have been asked to consider: “Is it a product or a pixel that launches creative thinking? Does a virtual space have the same impact as a physical place? Can imagination be collaborative?”
National thought-leaders, creative practitioners and industry icons slated to speak at the event include: Andy Clayman, creative director, Avenues: The World School; David Sherwin, frog design principal designer; Howard Gardner, Ph.D., professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Elizabeth Margulies and Cari Frisch, family programs department, The Museum of Modern Art; and Evan and Gregg Spiridellis, cofounders, JibJab and StoryBots.
“Sandbox Summit’s content-rich program will give toy companies an in-depth look at the intersection of technology and traditional play patterns,” noted TIA President Carter Keithley.
“Today’s media shapes tomorrow’s leaders. From a simple line drawing to conceptualizing in the fourth dimension, the way content is envisioned, developed, presented and received affects the way kids play, learn and communicate,” said Claire Green, co-founder of Sandbox Summit.
Full details about the conference can be found at SandboxSummit.org.
Kids Preferred recently acquired Bunnies By The Bay, a luxury line of toys, apparel and books begun by sisters in Washington State. The acquisition will allow Kids Preferred to add baby and children’s apparel to its broad array of toy and educational offerings.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer once noted, “As much a story as a product, Bunnies By The Bay is reminiscent of the Beatrix Potter stories of Peter Rabbit stores by Beatrix Potter, but with an Anacortes, Washington, flair.”
The company was founded by sisters Krystal Kirkpatrick and Suzanne Knutson who will remain with the company in their current roles. CEO Jeanne-ming Hayes said, “Kids Preferred will give us the opportunity to spread our message to a much bigger global audience and to help us create more diverse products.”
Kids Preferred is an award-winning division of Kids Preferred, Inc., which was founded in 1983 and is one of the largest plush toy manufacturers in the U.S.
Elenco Electronics welcomes James Seymour, Ph.D. as vice president of wireless and staff scientist. Seymour will help define the company’s wireless products and concepts relevant to educational toys and teaching aids.
Prior to joining Elenco, Seymour worked for Alcatel-Lucent where he served as acting wireless CTO, and was responsible for driving the company’s wireless standards and product strategy. He has been published 19 times in wireless technical journals and conferences, and has 10 listed patents and six patents pending in the wireless field.
In 2006, Seymour received the prestigious Bells Lab Fellow Award for “outstanding contributions to wireless technology and standards spanning 2G, 3G and 4G systems.”
“Jim brings energy, experience and unique perspective to our business, and we are thrilled to have him join the team,” says Elenco CEO Art Seymour. “He is an incredibly talented executive with the rare ability to deeply understand wireless technology, and the needs of today’s schools to motivate children in the sciences.
“As we move into the world of interactive toys, wireless communication between products and child/student will prove to be the best solution to demonstrating concepts and principles of science,” he adds. “Jim’s ability to drive marketing strategy through technological innovation and wireless communication make him an invaluable asset as the toy industry and educational landscape continues to shift.”
Five companies were presented with Baby & Child Best New Product Awards at the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) at the Javits Center in January. Baby & Child was one of 10 divisions at the fair, and featured 150 exhibiting companies.
In addition to the semi-annual Blogger’s Best award, the Best New Product Awards recognize excellence in four categories: toy, décor, gear and apparel. Here are the winners and finalists, selected from nearly 70 products.
Benbini (Atlanta, Georgia) for its stylish and functional silicone watches. The patented double-bezel design makes timing naps, feedings and timeouts easy.
Home Grown Books (New York City) for Set 3: a collection of eight books for the earliest reader featuring oil paintings by Sara Woster. The language ranges from simple one-word text to two short sentences per page in a consistent pattern.
Finalists: innovativeKids (Norwalk, Connecticut) for Green Start “play, draw, create: ocean” kit, and Geared for Imagination (Akron, Ohio) for Plus-Plus Midi (see page 34).
3 Sprouts (Toronto) for 3 Sprouts Laundry Hamper, a silk-screened, easy-to-cart hamper that combines design with function.
Finalists: The Ellie Rose LLC (Chester Springs, Pennsylvania) for Reversible Phoebe;
and SOZO (Unionville, Connecticut) for Baby Cuddle Mats
MadPax (Scottsdale, Arizona) for Blok Fullpack, a backpack with 3D construction for kids of all ages.
Finalists: Magicforest LTD (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) for Corduroy Satchel;
and Petites Frites (Pacific Palisades, California) for Chin Bib Set of Three.
Zipit (New York City) for Happy Playsuit, a one-piece infant playsuit with a full front opening that features an ankle-to-neck reversible zipper for easy diaper changing.
Finalists: The Ellie Rose LLC (Chester Springs, Pennsylvania) for Phoebe Dress; and JoJo Maman Bébé (London) for JoJo 4-in-1 waterproof jackets with recycled polar fleece lining.
All Things Equal, maker of the popular Loaded Questions and Awkward Family Photos games, welcomes Sophia Georgeo as its director of sales and marketing. Georgeo, whose previous experience includes managing sales and helping grow brand awareness for BANANAGRAMS, is responsible for spearheading the global sales efforts and social media marketing campaigns for All Things Equal.
Michelle Schmitt has been named the U.S. sales and marketing manager for premium doll brand Corolle. Prior to joining the company, she was director of retail business development for Marvel Entertainment. She has also served as marketing manager for Sears Holdings Management Corporation where she developed storewide programs for Kmart, partnering with entertainment companies such as Nickelodeon, WWE and Paramount.
In 2012, dolls from France-based Corolle were honored by the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Dr. Toy, iParenting, Creative Child magazine, National Parenting Publications (NAPPA), Parent’s Choice Awards, Savvy Auntie Coolest Toy Awards and more. Visit www.corolle.com for more information.
André Cassagnes, an electrical technician and inventor of the world-famous drawing toy, Etch A Sketch, died on January 16 in a suburb of Paris.
He was born just outside of the city on September 23, 1926. During his teen years he worked at his parents’ bakery before becoming an electrician at Lincrusta Co., a French manufacturer of seat and picture frame coverings that utilized aluminum powder in the production process.
He came upon the original idea for a drawing toy in the late 1950s, when he installed a factory light-switch plate at work, notes an article by the Toy Industry Association (TIA). It was covered with a translucent decal. After he peeled the decal from the plate, Cassagnes made some pencil marks on the decal face and noticed that the image transferred to the opposite face.
His toy was seen by U.S. company Ohio Art at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1959; Ohio Art eventually manufactured the product, launching it in time for the 1960 holiday season. Etch A Sketch became the number-one-selling toy in the United States that December.
“Etch A Sketch has brought much success to the Ohio Art Company, and we will be eternally grateful to André for that,” says Larry Killgallon, company president. “His invention brought joy to so many over such a long period of time.”
The classic toy recently marked its 50th anniversary.
TIA points out that Cassagnes was also a renowned modular kite designer, becoming the most famous competitive kite maker in France during the 1980s.
His other inventions included Teleguide, a system to guide metal cars on a track; mechanical games; and SkeDoodle, a globe screen drawing toy concept.
Smart Toys and Games has received nine 2012 Creative Child Awards. Bill & Betty Bricks and Aqua Belle have both received Game of the Year honors for the Construction Games category and Games for Girls category, respectively. SmartMax Flower Palace received a Top Toy of the Year award, while SmartMax Racers, SmartMax Express and SmartMax Drive & Fly were all recipients of the Preferred Choice award. Receiving a Seal of Excellence in the Kids Games category were Temple Trap and IQ Fit.
Creative Child magazine’s awards program honors submissions chosen by parents, educators and professionals. The magazine is a national bi-monthly publication that focuses on information about how to nurture a child’s creativity.
Smart Toys and Games products stimulate the development of logical thinking skills through play for all ages. Each multi-level challenge game is carefully designed and tested to move players through levels of game play, from very easy to extremely difficult. Extremely durable and compact, these games are perfect for travel. For more information go to www.SmartTangoes.com.
Kulics Sales and Marketing (KSM) has announced that Ken Sauder from Ken’s Educational Joys in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, was the $500 grand-prize winner in the KSM Show Walk at NSSEA’s Ed Expo in January. The runners-up, who each won $100, were Connie Porterfield of Office Equipment Center in Paris, Texas, and Beth Black of Sharp School Services in Hobart, Indiana.
Thames & Kosmos recently cemented a deal to make its primary partner company, Germany-based Kosmos International, its principal shareholder. The deal will boost the marketing, product development and logistical resources of 12-year-old Thames & Kosmos.
In addition, Thames & Kosmos has hired a new executive, CEO Andrew Quartin. Quartin was a portfolio manager at Schottenfeld Associates, where he managed a portfolio of media, retail, technology and diversified consumer products companies. Prior to that, he was a cofounder and president of TUTM entertainment. Quartin’s role at Thames & Kosmos will be to expand distribution, raise awareness of the brand and further integrate the two companies.
“Andy’s intuitive marketing skills, understanding of consumers’ needs, and financial prowess will be invaluable,” says Ted McGuire, president of Thames & Kosmos, who will continue to primarily focus on the company’s product development.
“Also, I am absolutely thrilled to be solidifying our partnership with 191-year-old publishing house Kosmos after 12 excellent years of collaboration,” he adds. “Functioning as a partially owned subsidiary, we can now realize new efficiencies that were previously impossible.”
For 10 years, McGuire steadily has been growing the sales of Thames & Kosmos science kits. “Recently, it became clear to me that in order to grow to the next level, we would need new capital,” says McGuire. “It made the most sense for the future of the company to align closer with Kosmos.”
“With this investment, we aim to strengthen T&K’s position in the U.S. market, as well as grow the entire U.S. market for science kits by continuing to introduce innovative products,” says Michael Fleissner, CEO and main shareholder of Kosmos. “Kosmos is entering an important phase in its development by accelerating international expansion and supplementing the physical products with digital components and apps.” Kosmos also recently acquired a producer of educational software games, USM, a leading app publisher with many educational games, including Redshift, Catan and Ingenious.
Cloud b, the company that created the award-winning Twilight Turtle and Sleep Sheep products developed to help children sleep, has appointed several new members to its advisory board. The board includes pediatricians, parents, bloggers and sleep specialists who provide feedback on Cloud b products and input on the best ways to sooth, comfort and communicate with children.
In addition, the 11-year-old company is launching a new brand-building initiative that will take the company beyond the crib with innovative new product lines.
“We work hard to develop products in consultation with our advisory board,” says Linda Suh, CEO of Cloud b. “We feel they can provide impactful insight and advice as we consider a wider range of interactive toys to build upon our reputation for innovation.”
The following people were added to the company’s 2013 advisory board.
Audra Wilford, founder of MaxLove, a nonprofit organization that works to help kids fight cancer.
Dan Nessel, founder and editor-in-chief of DadDoes.com, a leading product review site for parents.
Dr. Laura Sergis, a pediatrician with a private practice in Torrance, California.
Kim West, “The Sleep Lady,” has been a practicing child and family therapist for 20 years. She gently creates changes that promote and preserve a child’s healthy sleep habits.
Natalie Diaz, a mother to twins, is the founder of Twiniversity.com and Multiplicity magazine. She reaches more than 80,000 families of multiples in over 20 countries.